While 2020 may have seemed like the worst year in modern human history, it was a busy one for PUTT and our members. With just a few days before the holidays and plenty of reasons to celebrate (Rutledge v. PCMA victory; COVID vaccines) we thought we’d take a moment to reflect on some of the many accomplishments of PUTT and PUTT members over the last 12 months:
In January and February, we launched The PUTTcast, and began regularly guest-hosting on the PBM Reform podcast series for Pharmacy Podcast Network in an effort to further PBM reform by sharing information and resources. We connected members who’d been affected by OptumRx practices to attorney Mark Cuker, whose firm launched a lawsuit against the #3 PBM in multiple states.
The beginning of March brought the full onslaught of COVID. During the first weeks of the crisis PUTT developed and sent a Local Pharmacy Engagement 4-Point Plan to Boards of Pharmacy, Departments of Insurance, and the Governors’ Coronavirus Task Forces in all 50 states. We compiled the responses and published them to the media and our website.
In April and May we conducted Medicaid managed care surveys of independent pharmacies in Florida and Illinois. In response to Florida’s survey and 3 Axis Advisors independent report findings, we worked with pharmacy owners to cast light on pharmacy exploitation by CVS Caremark -- assisting them in holding their own press conferences to highlight the findings. PUTT members and friends contributed evidence that resulted in an article in the Capitol Forum, a private inside-the-Beltway publication read nationwide. The article, published on April 6th, outlines the anticompetitive PBM practices we’ve all come to know, but witnessed shamelessly taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In May and June our board members filed FTC complaints against PBMs and complaints with CMS when network access requirements were not being met. In an effort to mitigate acronym confusion, we created a downloadable Managed Care “Glossary of Terms” for lay persons that can be used to help anyone decipher contract jargon and translate how it’s used as a mechanism for PBM exploitation of pharmacies.
In response to member evidence and complaints we developed the Invoice Project -- an effort to educate payors about the true discrepancies in how PBMs are using their pharmacy dollars -- and an Evidence Locker of member-supplied documentation of PBM abusive practices; as well as a PBM patient poaching survey for data on patient steering tactics.
In June and July, we continued to spearhead “PBM Reform-adjacent” campaigns that affect the viability of independent pharmacies. We conducted an anti-drug importation campaign and asked Facebook users to sign state petitions asking Governors to issue orders that would allow pharmacies to administer the full range of FDA approved vaccines as a proactive response for future COVID vaccine availability. As a COVID precaution, our Annual Summit went virtual and was a huge success. PUTT members and friends had a unique opportunity to speak directly (via Zoom) with a panel of legislators involved in PBM reform from across the country, and even pre-submit questions to be answered.
In August and September PUTT co-authored a 27-page summary proposal of recommendations requested by the White House on healthcare reform with FDA Senior Advisor, Dr. David Gortler, and the input of multiple other pharmacy groups including PSSNY, LIPA, NCPA, and IPMD -- the culmination of multiple meetings with high-ranking White House staff on the need for national PBM reform measures.
In October we welcomed new "official" and unofficial state chapters of PUTT in Michigan and Minnesota spearheaded by members of our board; and enjoyed moments of nail-biting camaraderie when we hosted our live SCOTUS "watch party" of the Rutledge v PCMA proceedings. The final months of 2020 brought a wave of PCMA-funded false patient coalition websites for "Affordable Rx". In response to their bogus claims of "independent pharmacy lobbies", we began a community education campaign putting a "face" to independent pharmacy through social media #UNselfie graphics using pictures submitted by PUTT members and friends. We plan to continue this campaign into 2021.
In November PUTT wrote and defended policy language at the American Legislative Exchange Conference (ALEC) HHS committee which was attended by members from both the political and private sectors, including PCMA. And, a year after we first began coordinating evidence and interview subjects, NBC released its investigative report on mail-order abuse of patients -- a huge win in the battle to educate legislators and the public on the dangers of forced pharmacy mail-order.
PUTT is nothing without the efforts of our members, so this year’s 4th Quarter Membership Campaign has focused on creating solidarity with all healthcare organizations using the title RxRevolution -- we encourage all who are abused by PBM business practices to join the fight!
While 2020 has definitely been "one for the record books," it has also been a year of intense scrutiny on PBM business practices. This is due in large part to our board of directors and members who’ve continued to work hard to educate lawmakers, patients and plan payers -- all while serving as front-line essential workers in the worst global pandemic in a century.
As this year comes to an end, we thank you all for your hard work, your sacrifices and for going the extra mile for your patients and staff. We thank you for your support of PUTT and look forward to working alongside you in 2021 for PBM reform.
Happy Holidays from all of us at PUTT!